commitment to Diversity

Throughout its history, Durham Academy has recognized that diversity enriches learning. Co-ed since its founding in 1933 and one of the first schools to integrate in Durham, DA has committed itself at every level — from the boardroom to the classroom — to the dual pursuit of excellence and diversity. Our welcoming, dynamic and interconnected community provides students with the support to prepare them to live and thrive in a diverse world. 

Learn about Durham Academy's early days as a leader in integrity and inclusion through the reflections of DA alumna Valerie Kennedy Miller '81.

Diversity Achievements

  • 33 percent of Durham Academy's students are students of color, putting DA in the top third among peer independent schools for diversity.
  • 19 percent of DA teachers are faculty of color.
  • DA has increased student diversity by 22 percent over the last decade.
  • Durham Academy awarded more than $2 million in financial aid during 2016-2017.
  • The school's financial aid budget has more than quadrupled in size over the past 20 years.
  • Need-based financial aid awards range from $1,000 to nearly a full year's tuition and do not have to be repaid. The average award in 2016-2017 was $14,682.
  • The Sheppy Vann Preschool Scholarship Fund is a need-based scholarship fund, making the Preschool accessible to a wide range of families.

2016-2017 Student Demographics


Durham Academy's Diversity Mission Statement

Diversity enlivens, improves and enriches the intellectual and social environment of an academic community and encompasses all aspects of humanity including racial identity, sex, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, ability, age and gender identity. We are committed to an ongoing process to increase the diversity of our community and to implement policies, programs and practices under which all members of our community feel welcomed, empowered, responsible and safe. Amidst our diversity we stand united in the pursuit of academic excellence and development of individual capabilities.

(Adopted by the Durham Academy Board of Trustees in 2004 and updated in 2008)


Durham Academy's Director of Diversity & Multicultural Affairs creates events and activities throughout the year to increase cultural awareness, sensitivity and knowledge with the purpose of preparing students for a diverse society and forming a more global perspective. The director also works with division heads to ensure the school's diversity curriculum focuses increasingly on breaking down stereotypes and encouraging invigorating classroom discussion on diversity, responsibility and community. DA's diversity programming provides academic, emotional and social support for its faculty, staff and students/families of diverse backgrounds.

Have an idea for future programming? Contact Kemi Nonez, Director of Diversity & Multicultural Affairs.

African-American History Month
Each division celebrates in age-appropriate ways. Lower Schoolers are introduced to daily facts about notable African Americans throughout history, and held a "silent march" holding signs that defined equity and social justice for them. Middle and Upper Schoolers held assemblies to celebrate the annual observance. Upper Schoolers produced a video documenting their perspectives about Black History Month and their feelings about being a minority.

Civil Rights Bus Tour
DA's entire 11th-grade class and advisors take an annual Civil Rights Bus Tour, during which they visit landmarks and museums, meet with leaders of the movement, and explore the realities of race, history and social justice in Atlanta, Birmingham, Selma, Montgomery and Memphis.

Culture and Community Festival
This annual festival (launched in 2011) highlights the various cultures and talents of the school community. The event includes entertainment for all ages and provides a venue for diverse families from across divisions to interact. Graduating seniors involved in the school's diversity efforts are recognized at the festival.

DA United
The DA United Club provides Middle School students with the opportunity to learn aobut different cultures and traditions from around the world. Each month, the club meets to participate in activities or excursions directed toward giving each member a deeper appreciation and understanding of our local and global communities.

Hispanic Heritage Month
In September and October, all divisions celebrate the contributions of Hispanics and Latinos throughout American history. Assemblies and documentaries introduce students to Latin culture. In late September, parents of Hispanic and Latino students attend a "meet & greet" hosted by the Office of Diversity & Multicultural Affairs.

International Night (Preschool)
Preschool students and their families come together each year for a night of cultural exchange. The informal event features food, music, crafts and camaraderie. Each preschool classroom represents a different continent and/or country and culture.

Minority Parents Night Out
DA parents of minority students gather for an informal off-campus social outing. Current parents across all four divisions are able to meet and form a social network.

National Mix-it-Up Day
National Mix-it-Up at Lunch Day was launched by the Teaching Tolerance Organization more than a decade ago to encourage students to identify, question and cross social boundaries by stepping out of their comfort zone. Students in each division participate by "mixing up" their classrooms and advisories to take part in an inclusive interactive group activity.

Reel Perspectives Film Series
A cultural awareness movie series provides the DA community with a fun and informal setting to view and discuss entertaining and thought-provoking movies from around the world. Most recently, DA hosted a screening of the powerful documentary I'm Not Racist ... Am I?, at which filmmaker André Robert Lee led students, parents, faculty and members of the Durham community through a discussion about race.

Stop Hunger Now
Each January DA honors the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by organizing a day of service. Hundreds of members of the DA community participate in the school-wide service event, packaging meals for international hunger relief agency Stop Hunger Now, which distributes food and other life saving aid to children and families in countries around the world.

Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC)
Each year, several DA Upper School students attend this annual conference, joining with more than 1,300 students from independent schools from around the nation. The SDLC is an inclusive, multiracial, multicultural gathering of student leaders grades 9-12 from around the country that focuses on self-reflection and community building. A diverse team of trained adult and peer facilitators helps participants develop an appreciation of their own identities, build effective cross-cultural communication skills, better understand the nature and development of effective social justice strategies and practice expression through arts while networking with peers.

Triangle Diversity Alliance Conference
Durham Academy is part of a consortium of five independent schools providing an opportunity for students, faculty and staff to affirm their identity, share perspectives, and cultivate leadership skills. DA hosted the 2014 conference, welcoming 182 middle and high school students from around the Triangle to examine media representation of minorities.


Durham Academy continues to be proactive and progressive about acknowledging and incorporating diversity. Durham Academy’s diversity team includes Board members, administrators, division coordinators, faculty members, current parents, students and alumni all working together to drive and support the School's mission of diversity. 

Board of Trustees Diversity Committee

     Kanika Capel, Chair     Karen Berman
     Rajeev Dharmapurikar     Steve Lacoff
     Kemi Nonez, Director of Diversity     Luis Pastor
     Valerie Quiett     Jamie Spatola '00
     Michael Ulku-Steiner, Head of School     Karen Triplett, Parents Association President
     Kara Turner 

In 2014, Durham Academy honored the legacy of long-time Preschool Director and kindergarten teacher Sheppy Vann by establishing a need-based scholarship to make the Preschool accessible to a wide range of families. Vann's career at DA spanned 30 years as a kindergarten teacher and 24 years as director of the Preschool. During that time, she championed diversity as one of DA's top priorities, especially at the school's largest entry point.   

Upper School Diversity Club 

The Diversity Club provides Upper School students with the opportunity to learn about different cultures and traditions from around the world. The club meets monthly to plan or participate in activities and/or excursions directed toward appreciating and understanding the culturally diverse environment we live in. Members of the club also participate in student leadership training workshops. Students organize fundraisers, with proceeds donated to the Sheppy Vann Preschool Scholarship Fund.


Durham Academy has created valuable partnerships with the following institutions and associations:

  • Duke School is a leading educational institution both within the Triangle and wider educational community. The school produces outstanding students who are independent learners, thinkers and decision makers. Each fall Triangle Independent Schools Consortium (TISC) members are invited to Duke School campus for a diversity school fair to recruit students of color to local independent schools. 

  • Durham Nativity School aims to educate and empower each child to reach their full potential. Without regard to race, religion or ethnicity, the school provides a tuition-free, enriched learning environment and an 11-year support system for middle school boys who have the ability and commitment to achieve, yet lack the resources to attend a quality, independent school. Founded by Joe and Ann Carole Moylan (parents of six Durham Academy alumni), Durham Nativity School is now led by a board that includes DA alumni, trustees, current parents and parents of DA alumni. DA has enrolled several DNS graduates and the school offers financial aid guidance to DNS families applying to independent day and boarding schools.

  • Jack & Jill of America (Durham Chapter) is a mothers organization that dedicates its resources to improving the quality of life of children, particularly for African-American children, by providing social, cultural and educational opportunities for youth. The Durham Chapter was founded in 1945 by a group of mothers on the campus of North Carolina College, now North Carolina Central University. Today the Durham Chapter is comprised of 58 families and 98 children, with a platform of various service programs and activities for children to stimulate their growth and development.

  • The Lerner School provides students with an outstanding secular education, infused with a strong Judaic Studies and daily Hebrew program. Students are empowered to explore their world guided by a rich integrated curriculum and caring teachers. They are members of a strong Jewish community that values compassion and encourages tzedakah (charity), g'milut chadasim (acts of loving kindness) and kavod (respect). DA attends an annual school fair at the Lerner School to recruit students that would add to the religious diversity of DA's community.

  • Maureen Joy Charter School is a K-8 public charter school in Durham. Students of color make up 98 percent of the scholars at Maureen Joy. The school demonstrates increased academic strength and is dramatically outperforming other public and charter schools in the area. Durham Academy is invested in the success of Maureen Joy students who are interested in applying and enrolling at an independent school. In 2012, DA began hosting an annual event at Maureen Joy to help families with questions or concerns about DA's application or financial aid process. 

  • Mocha Moms (Durham Chapter) is a support group for mothers of color who have chosen not to work full-time outside of the home in order to devote more time to their families. The Durham chapter was chartered in December 2002. The organization serves as an advocate for these mothers and encourages the spirit of community activism within its membership.

  • Student U is a college access organization offering year-round, free, academic enrichment for Durham public middle and high school students. The program is hosted at Durham Academy and staffed by undergraduates and educators from Duke, North Carolina Central University, UNC-Chapel Hill and Durham Academy, and is funded by the universities, Durham Public Schools, DA, and private foundations and individuals. Student U creates a pipeline of services in the summer and after school to support students and ensure they develop the academic skills and personal well-being needed to beat the statistics and succeed. Student U welcomed its first class of 50 students and 16 teachers in the summer of 2007. In May 2014, 40 students from that inaugural class announced their intended college during Student U's first College Signing Day, to a Carolina Theater packed with supportive friends and family there to celebrate their success. Throughout the 2013-14 school year, Student U worked with 340 students (grades 6-12) and their families.

  • Durham Academy is a member of Triangle Diversity Alliance, a consortium of five independent schools providing an opportunity for students, faculty and staff to affirm their identity, share perspectives, and cultivate leadership skills. Member schools include Cary Academy, Carolina Friends School, Durham Academy, Ravenscroft School and St. Mary's School.

  • Other DA partnerships include the Hayti Heritage Center, El Centro Hispano, Duke University, UNC-Chapel Hill and other community agencies.

Faculty & Staff

Faculty of Color Recruitment
In 2013-2014, Durham Academy launched an aggressive initiative to recruit faculty of color. In the years since, the school has partnered with global and national recruitment firms for independent schools, and school representatives have traveled to take part in several independent school recruitment fairs.

Training/Professional Development
New faculty and staff receive intensive diversity upon joining the Durham Academy community. The school's commitment to cultural competency is reinforced through regular professional development days featuring speakers such as American Promise filmmakers Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson, diversity expert Rosetta Lee and DA parents. Trainings have centered around discussions about the realities and impact that race, class, culture, gender, religion and ability have on students in the Durham Academy community. 

People of Color Conference
Each year, several DA faculty and staff members, representing all divisions of the school, attend the National Association of Independent Schools People of Color Conference (PoCC), joining more than 2,000 participants from across the nation as well as international attendees. DA sends a group of faculty and administrators who are committed to equity work to the extraordinary annual conference.


Notice of Nondiscriminatory Policy: Durham Academy admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. Durham Academy does not unlawfully discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.

Why DA?
Office of Diversity & Multicultural Affairs

Kemi Nonez
Director of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs
Assistant Director of Admissions 
919-489-6569 (x6111)

Upper School

Kelly Teagarden
Upper School Humanities Teacher

Middle School

Jeff Boyd
Middle School Language Arts & History

Cindy Moore
Learning Specialist, Pre-K to Sixth Grade


Lower School

Nataki McClain
Lower School Math Specialist

Pamela McKenney
Lower School Art


Elizabeth Allan

An independent, coeducational day school, pre-kindergarten through grade 12.
email page print page small type large type
powered by finalsite